Whether you’re an owner-operator startup or an established operation, it’s critical to stay in compliance with government regulations. Here’s an owner-operator checklist to help you stay on top of the most common compliance requirements.

Hours of service: keep accurate documentation for every 24 hours

You’re no doubt familiar with the hours of service (HOS) rules, which dictate how many hours you can drive without taking a break. It’s not enough to follow the rules. You have to prove you’ve followed them. HOS compliance is also considered one of the biggest fleet manager responsibilities nowadays.

For every 24-hour period you’re on duty, you should have documents with the origin and destination of each trip, e.g., bills of lading, itineraries, schedules, trip records. And expense receipts related to any non-driving time. These records of duty status (RODS) have to be retained for six months.

Electronic logging devices can help you keep track of all this information. These devices automatically record all driving time and location information for you. You have to get an ELD that meets the FMCSA requirements. The Motive fleet management platform was built from the ground up to meet these ELD mandate requirements.

Further reading: The complete guide to Canada’s hours of service rules.

Complete a driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR) daily

Another important part of the owner-operator checklist is the DVIR. This is a pre-trip inspection of items such as brakes, lights, and tires. It ensures a vehicle is fit for the road. Commercial drivers are required by federal law to complete a DVIR.

At the start of a shift, you must review the last DVIR on the vehicle. Then, take note of and sign off on any defects. Defects have to be corrected before the vehicle can be used. At the end of the shift, you must complete a new DVIR. DVIRs need to be kept for a minimum of three months. The Motive App makes completing DVIRs fast and easy.

Discover DVIR best practices.

International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA): keep good records

Fuel taxes go toward road maintenance. That’s why states want to make sure they get their fair share, according to the miles driven in each state or province. Licensing your vehicle with the IFTA allows you to submit one fuel tax return every quarter (instead of one for every jurisdiction you drive through).

Similar to Hours of Service, IFTA requires keeping good records. Having an ELD to help log your truck’s odometer and location eliminates the manual process. Motive automates IFTA fuel tax reporting for you.

International Registration Plan (IRP): record where you drive

IRP is similar to IFTA but applies to license fees instead of fuel taxes. Whether or not this will save you money depends on how many different jurisdictions you drive through. If all or most of your trips are in one jurisdiction, it’s most likely cheaper to apportion in that jurisdiction.

Drug and alcohol testing: register at a consortium

Owner-operators are required to participate in a Department of Transportation (DOT) Drug and Alcohol testing program. A consortium/third-party administrator manages testing.

Register at a DOT Consortium to stay compliant. Learn more about drug and alcohol testing via the DOT Employer Handbook.

Driver qualification file (DQF): keep one for the last 3 years

The FMCSA requires that trucking companies must keep a driver qualification file for every driver — another important step in this owner-operator checklist. If you’re an owner-operator, this means you. It has to be maintained for the past three years and has eight parts:

  1. Employee application must contain the mandatory information
  2. Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) for every state you held a commercial license or permit
  3. MVR for the previous three years
  4. Every year you must do an MVR review and note who did the review and the date. Also, identify any violations of FMCSA regulations.
  5. Record of violations is a list of any violations in the previous 12 months. You need this even if you don’t have any violations (parking tickets don’t have to be included)
  6. A copy of your commercial driver’s license (CDL)
  7. Medical Examiners Certificate (or copy), which is valid for up to 24 months
  8. A note verifying that the medical examiner was on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners List

CDL endorsements: update your DQF

If you have endorsements on your CDL, you may have to maintain additional information in your DQF. These include a background history check and extra insurance for things like hazardous cargo.

Owner-operator checklist: next steps

While every owner-operator has different needs, this owner-operator checklist is a good place to start with improving compliance with DOT and other regulations. Keeping compliant with regulations is just part of doing business, and Motive is here to help make your compliance management easier.

If you have any questions about the Motive fleet management platform, call us at (844) 257-6396. Our 24/7 Customer Support team is standing by to help you.